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Bluegrass Land and Life

Bluegrass Land and Life: Land Character, Plants, and Animals of the Inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky: Past, Present, and Future

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Bluegrass Land and Life
    Book Description:

    The Inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky is a shining jewel of geography -- synonymous in the minds of many with the state of Kentucky. It is unique in many respects: the character of its land, its native vegetation, and its indigenous animal life. The way of life developed by its human inhabitants over the past two hundred years, especially its focus on the Thoroughbred horse, is also unique. The interaction of these two forces -- natural and human -- is the focus for this important work.

    The book includes color plates of representative plant and animal species and typical habitats. The annotated lists of 474 animal and nearly 1,200 plant species describe habitat, frequency, and distribution.

    Bluegrass Land and Lifeis a book that will delight all who share an interest in the Bluegrass region's past and present and a concern for its future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6510-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Zoology, Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. List of Maps, Figure, and Tables
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)

    Bluegrass Land and Life, by Drs. Mary E. Wharton and Roger W Barbour, is a timely and informative examination of the ecology of this world-renowned region of Kentucky. This new book by two distinguished scientists describes in an engaging way the transition of this unique terrain from early geologic time to the brink of the twenty-first century.

    The whole of the Bluegrass landscape is now, as always in its long history, undergoing change. The ancient past saw the gradual evolution from seas, with their shelled animals and mineral deposits, to savanna-woodlands, rich with the big game animals cherished by several...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    “BLUEGRASS KENTUCKY is more than a region which can be definitely located by a geologist or a geographer upon a soulless map,” writes historian Thomas D. Clark. “It is not alone a matter of geographical tangibility, but it is likewise a state of mind … and a satisfactory way of life” (1942, 109). This intangible quality is the human fruition of a unique physical environment that has produced exceptional conditions for plant and animal life through countless ages.

    Although all sections of the Bluegrass region have many characteristics in common, the Inner Bluegrass (about 30 percent of the whole) is...

  7. Part I. Geology and Environmental History

    • 1. Geological Background
      (pp. 5-18)

      NATURE’S ENDOWMENT of beauty and fertility in the Inner Bluegrass has a background of many millions of years. It results from a combination of rock type, geological structure, and geological history that accounts for the gently rolling, rich, and fertile upland into which the Kentucky River has cut a spectacular gorge. Geology is fundamental in determining all aspects of life. The type of rock and the regional topography it creates, together with climate, determine what vegetation will flourish, how much animal life the land will support, and whether a human community established there will be rich or poor.

      The Inner...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 2. Presettlement Vegetation
      (pp. 19-32)

      During the period of white settlement, surveyors’ “calls,” or reference points, were usually trees. Reading several hundred eighteenth-century land surveys and early deeds for the Inner Bluegrass yields some information regarding prevailing species, although nothing concerning their density or community relations. To be useful, this information must be considered along with other sources. In the Bluegrass Plain the single species named most often in these early records was “sugar tree”; hackberry was also very frequent. Oak, “large oak,” ash, and hickory were often named without indicating the species, although sometimes the calls specified bur oak, white oak, shellbark hickory, blue...

    • 3. Presettlement Animal Life
      (pp. 33-39)

      THE FIRST record of animals in the Bluegrass region is in the rocks that underlie the region. These animals were invertebrates inhabiting the warm shallow seas that covered this part of the country about 400 million years ago: cephalopods and other molluscs, brachiopods, crinoids, and bryozoa. Although later seas covered the area, their deposits, including later marine life, were eroded away when the land was several times uplifted out of the sea. No trace of the earliest terrestrial life has been left in the Bluegrass, although swamp life was preserved in the coalbearing rocks of eastern and western Kentucky.


    • 4. Early Modification of the Presettlement Ecosystems
      (pp. 40-50)

      THE PREHISTORIC human residents of Kentucky lived with the land and its other inhabitants, harvesting only what they needed, rather than attempting to modify them to their own designs. But with the astounding rate of migration from the eastern states and the rapidity of settlement in the Inner Bluegrass, immediate inroads were made into the natural ecosystems. According to Aubudon, writing in the early nineteenth century, “Cultivation and introduction of cattle and horses, and other circumstances connected with the progress of civilization, have greatly altered the face of the country” (Peattie 1940, 55).

      The pioneer was impressed by the richness...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  8. Part II. Habitats and Natural Community Organization

    • 5. Plant Communities
      (pp. 51-61)

      THE INNER Bluegrass section is in the Western Mesophytic Forest Region as defined by Braun (1950), as is all of the state west of the Cumberland Plateau. This region is transitional between the Mixed Mesophytic Forest Region of the westem Appalachians and the Oak-Hickory Forest Region centering in the Ozarks. The Western Mesophytic Region contains a wide variety of vegetation types and, influenced by underlying rock and physiography, forms a mosaic of forest types, including mixed mesophytic, mixed hardwoods, oak-hickory, cedar glades, and swamp forests.

      In a region such as the Inner Bluegrass, where soils are of prime value for...

    • 6. Vertebrate Animal Habitats
      (pp. 62-73)

      A WIDE variety of habitats is available for animals in the Inner Bluegrass, and they readily fall into five major groups. We have subdivided these, present some information on each of the subdivisions, and name some animals that may be commonly encountered in each.

      Pastures. Paddocks and small pastures offer poor habitats for most vertebrates other than horses, although one commonly sees starlings, English sparrows, and sometimes crows in such places. Pine voles and meadow voles may make their runs in the taller grasses under the fences and between the paddocks. Larger pastures, not so intensively used, support a variety...

    • 7. Present Status of Vertebrates
      (pp. 74-78)

      ABOUT 120 species of fishes are currently known in the streams and rivers of the Inner Bluegrass, out of 229 known in the state. Several of these are relatively recent introductions, and some of them are doing well. On the other hand, we have essentially lost several species of magnificent fishes that were abundant when the white man first came to the Bluegrass—lake sturgeon, shovelnose sturgeon, muskellunge, paddlefish, and American burbot.

      A surprising number of fish species occur commonly in the headwaters of the Licking and Kentucky rivers that do not occur in equivalent-sized tributaries of these rivers as...

  9. Part III. Annotated Lists

    • Vascular Plants
      (pp. 79-158)

      THIS LIST is compiled from collection records, but only collections that are unmistakably from those portions of the counties in which the soil is derived from Middle Ordivician limestone—Inner Bluegrass in the strictest sense. No sight records are included unless they are so specified, as, for example, a rare species found in only one place in numbers too few to collect. In the case of very common species, it may be stated that according to the author’s observation they occur in every county, although, as with Kentucky bluegrass, they may in fact have been collected in only some counties....

    • Vertebrate Animals
      (pp. 159-206)

      OF THE approximately 717 described species of vertebrates occurring in Kentucky at the present time, 474 (66 percent) have been recorded or may reasonably be expected to occur in the Inner Bluegrass. Some groups are much better represented than others; for example, 80 percent of the bird species in the state are represented, 70 percent of the mammals, 53 percent of the amphibians, 52 percent of the fishes, and 50 percent of the reptiles.

      These variances are perhaps due in part to the geography of the state, with the highest mountains at one end harboring our most northern animals, and...

  10. Part IV. The Future of the Bluegrass

    • 8. The Bluegrass Region of Tomorrow in Light of Present Trends
      (pp. 207-226)

      “PARADISE” it was called when explorers came upon this land. Wave after wave of pioneer settlers entered what they considered the Promised Land and described as a second Eden. Shortly after 1900 a young man returning to the Bluegrass region said in addressing a class reunion at Georgetown College, “Somewhere in this old world, God planted a garden. In the Book of Books that garden is called Eden. They say it has vanished from the earth. I make no answer save to call them here, that they may cease to search where Eden was, and find where Eden is.” Westbrook...

  11. Appendixes

    • A. Glossary of Geologic Terms
      (pp. 227-227)
    • B. The Geologic Time Scale
      (pp. 227-228)
    • C. Plant Communities and Succession: A Basic Explanation
      (pp. 229-229)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 230-236)
  13. Index of Species
    (pp. 237-254)
  14. General Index
    (pp. 255-259)
  15. [Map]
    (pp. None)